The Test Pilot operation by TC Electronic is the kind of questionable operation that could also be a killer in many aspects for paper & online magazines, blogs, clients, and TC Electronic itself. TC Electronic recently announced that they are looking for beta testers to test drive the bass amplifier TC Electronic BH500.
Anyone can apply by sending a test video of any item (instrument, amp, ipad, bike,…). The applicant has to choose the amp/cab combination that he would test. TC Electronic will then choose their favorite applicants, and send them the gear. The beta tester will then have 4 weeks to try out the amp, and record a video review. The final steps will be to upload the video on their own Youtube channel (not TC’s channel), and send back the amp to TC Electronic. Shipping costs are covered by the brand.
I might exagerate a little when I qualify it as a killer but there is definitely something questionable about this operation! I think it raises some ethical issues.
Promoting Unpaid Work?
Believe it or not, reviewing gear is a lot of work if you want to do it right! Fun work indeed but still work! Here, TC Electronic is promoting unpaid work that will only benefit to the brand. This is kind of unethical. Oh I see you coming with the following: “hey man you’re running a blog with no ads, ain’t that unpaid work?”. It is only partially true! To date I’ve made only 3 types of reviews:
- My own gear – Purpose was to share with the community about a great gear that I’ve bought, and wanted to spread the word about!
- Gear sent from brands (Red Bee guitar, Pod HD500) – I’ve been contacted by brands, and I always asked the brands to make the gear available for a giveaway – It was a way to share with the community as well as to serve branding purposes for my blogs (Muzicosphere & G.A.S. a GoGo).
- For Guitare Live online magazine – No need to tell you that it is definitely not free work!
In this operation I can see the benefits for TC Electronic… Not so much for the testers!!
Tricking the Customer?
Another issue that I can see coming is from the customers perspective. The beta testers are asked to upload the videos on their own Youtube accounts not TC’s channel. Then TC Electronic will publish the review on their end user review page! TC Electronic is not willing to fully take responsibility for these videos? What are they looking for by not going on full disclosure? I think they should create a specific page for these reviews that are not really user reviews!!
I’m afraid that it could be confusing for customers who might think they are watching a review made by a user while they are watching a “sponsored” review not identified as such. Lack of disclosure is confusing!
To me, this operation is tricky for TC Electronic’s brand image!
Good online bass magazines, and blogs are lacking. There are some but not that many, and not as much as guitar magz. Maybe TC Electronic is trying to fill that empty space on the net? It may encourage bass players to take the plunge, and run their own blogs. And this would be a great purpose! Maybe I’m naive but I can’t really think that they are just looking for cheaply acquired positive reviews, are they? That would be so lame coming from a brand that make some really good music gear!
What are your thoughts about this?